“…provide attendees with the essential inspiration, skills and information to start, build and run a business.”
Occupational health and safety does not feature. WorkSafe Victoria, the state OHS regulator whose mission is
“Working with the community to deliver outstanding workplace safety, together with quality care and insurance protection to workers and employers.”
WorkSafe operates a small business support service. It produces guidance material on workplace safety targeted to the small business sector. In its own WorkSafe Week, it provides presentations to medium-sized businesses but it is not participating in a Small Business Festival organised by one of its colleagues in the State Government.
WorkSafe devotes considerable resources to WorkSafe Week and tries to be as attractive to all sectors of Victorian business as it can possibly be but surely some of those resources can be allocated to providing authoritative advice and guidance in support of a month-long festival by a government agency.
The Small Business Festival is not devoid of OHS events but none of them seem to have the authority that WorkSafe would have provided with its own events. The Festival’s website provides a search category of Workplace Health and Safety but these lead mainly to commercial events including, amongst others:
- A $A990 course for Health and Safety Representatives, and
- A $A288 course in “the testing and tagging skills required for testing electrical appliances, tools and apparatus”. Many worksites will only permit testing and tagging by a certified electrician so the Statement of Participation may be of restricted value.
There are only two free OHS-related events:
- OH&S and Your Bottom Line – conducted by the City of Casey but not until the end of September, and
- Dispelling The Myth: What Happens When The WorkSafe Inspector Visits? – held in the regional city of Ballarat
The second of these events is likely to be the most worthwhile of all the events because it is being conducted by the Ballarat Regional Occupational Safety and Health Group (BROSH). BROSH is one a network of small safety groups in the urban and regional areas of Victoria. The organisation has a large number of corporate members, including WorkSafe Victoria, as shown by the flyer for this event.
Small businesses in Victoria are being disadvantaged by the lack of support from WorkSafe and professional safety associations to the Small Business Festival. Not every small business owner is available in WorkSafe Week at the end of October. Not every small business owner can afford almost a thousand dollars to train one person or almost three hundred dollars for skills that may not be allowed to be applied.
State Governments need to begin coordinating their resources to capitalise on the initiatives of its agencies, authorities and departments. All businesses have a complexity of safety and health issues that need support and clarity from authoritative voices, from a variety of sources and throughout the year. As one WorkSafe presentation says, business owners must juggle their priorities to try to ensure the safety of their workforce at the same time as building a sustainable business.
The lack of affordable OHS advice during the Small Business Festival is sending the wrong message to the economic sector that needs good OHS advice the most.